ALBUM OF THE MONTH
FIVE REASONS TO LISTEN:
- Boyz II Men’s “hip hop doo wop,” the style which made them Motown’s biggest-selling act of the past 25 years.
- “Motownphilly,” the quartet’s debut single, which reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100.
- “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday,” their a cappella second single, No. 2 on the Hot 100 and No. 1 on the Billboard R&B charts.
- “Uhh Ahh,” the group’s third single, also No. 1 on the R&B best-sellers.
- Boyz II Men earned a 1991 Grammy® nomination as best new artist, and won a Grammy® for Cooleyhigharmony as best R&B performance by a duo or group with vocals.
FOUR FAST FACTS:
- Original release date: February 14, 1991.
- Top 3 on the Billboard pop charts and No. 1 on the R&B rankings.
- Certified nine-times platinum.
- To celebrate the album’s 25th anniversary, it will be reissued on vinyl August 19, 2016.
FULL TRACK LISTING:
- The album was executive-produced by Michael Bivins of hitmakers New Edition and Bell Biv DeVoe. He was impressed by Boyz II Men’s impromptu backstage performance of NE’s “Can You Stand The Rain” in Philadelphia one night in March 1989. At the time, the young hopefuls were known as Unique Attraction; Bivins took on their management, and when signed to Motown Records, the quartet became Boyz II Men.
- The creative team behind Cooleyhighharmony included Atlanta-based Dallas Austin, who wrote “Motownphilly” with Michael Bivins (who’s heard in a cameo: “Let me see what you can do”) and the quartet’s Nathan Morris and Shawn Stockman. Seven of the ten tracks were written or co-written by group members, including the fourth and fifth singles, “Please Don’t Go” and “Sympin.” Two songs, “Little Things” and “Your Love,” came from Troy Taylor, a Motown artist who switched to a career in writing and producing. The album was recorded at Philadelphia’s Studio 4, New York’s Soundworks, and Doppler in Atlanta.
- “Motownphilly” was not only a chart-riding model of “east coast swing,” but also promotion for Michael Bivins’ other proteges, tagged as the East Coast Family. The song’s lyric jabs (“ABC,” “BBD”) refer to Another Bad Creation, a new jack swing quintet from Atlanta whom he signed to Motown, and Bell Biv DeVoe, a successful spinoff from New Edition, comprising Bivins, Ricky Bell and Ronnie DeVoe. Both acts appeared fleetingly in Boyz II Men’s video for “Motownphilly.”
- “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday” was the group’s remake of a Motown song written by Freddie Perren and Christine Yarian, and originally recorded by G.C. Cameron. His was a Top 40 R&B hit in 1975, and featured in the Motown-released soundtrack LP of comedy-drama movie Cooley High, directed by Michael Schultz. That school was set in Chicago. There was a Cooley High in Detroit; Boyz II Men were schooled in Philadelphia.
- In addition to Grammy® kudos, Cooleyhighharmony earned Boyz II Men recognition from the American Music Awards and the Soul Train Music Awards, as well as an NAACP Image honor, and two prizes from America’s music retail organization, NARM. During its first run, the album sold more than four million copies.
- While awaiting a follow-up to Cooleyhighharmony, Motown took the unusual step of reissuing the album in 1993 with a new cover and added tracks. Among them: “End Of The Road,” Boyz II Men’s record-breaking, chart-topping single – as featured in the Eddie Murphy movie, Boomerang – and a Spanish version of the song. The reissue also contained “In The Still Of The Night (I’ll Remember),” a 1950s hit which the group performed in the TV mini-series, The Jacksons: An American Dream.
- The ’93 version of Cooleyhighharmony brought the album’s total sales to a certified nine million. In 2009, both the first and second editions were combined into a two-CD set from Hip-O Select/Motown, which also contained radio and dance mixes of various tracks. Another inclusion was a gospel version of “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday,” complete with dedication to inspirational figures such as Sarah Vaughan, Sammy Davis Jr., Nat “King” Cole, Malcolm X, Rev. Martin Luther King and Marvin Gaye.
- At the same time as the August 19 vinyl re-release of Cooleyhighharmony, Universal Music is issuing a two-LP vinyl edition of II, Boyz II Men’s sophomore album. This first came out in August 1994, and included the Philly foursome’s two consecutive No. 1 singles, “I’ll Make Love To You” and “On Bended Knee.” It was No. 1 on the Billboard album best-sellers for five weeks, and spent a total of 99 weeks on the charts.
“I was curious where they stood as far as stage presence. I wasn’t seeing the complete package. But I could see that they had the most important piece, which a lot of groups were missing at the time – the vocals” – Michael Bivins to Rolling Stone, recalling his impressions on first seeing Boyz II Men.
“We’re a spontaneous group. One is singing his part while the other one is doing his background part. As far as the lead vocals, we go on feeling. Whoever’s in the booth recording at the time, the other guys are adding in their two cents to give flavor to the song” – Nathan Morris, quoted in Fred Bronson’s The Billboard Book Of Number 1 Hits.
VOTE FOR YOUR FAVORITE TRACK ON THE ALBUM:
Producers: Dallas Austin, Charles Farrar, Troy Taylor.
Songwriters: Dallas Austin, Michael Bivins, Nathan Morris, Wanya Morris, Freddie Perren, Shawn Stockman, Troy Taylor, Christine Yarian.
Pre-makes: “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday” (G.C. Cameron, 1975).
Re-makes: “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday” (The Flex, 1991; Jacky Cheung, 1993; Jason Mraz, 2014).